Sports Council Advice: Stop trading football dreams to young children

In amateur football, there is a lot of emphasis on “making money from young football talent”, which increases the risk of abuse and damages the amateur football scene in the long run. The Independent Sports Council Amsterdam writes this in a tip to the Amsterdam municipality.

According to the Sports Council, the impact of commercial football schools in particular is significant, impairing traditional club life, fueling “unrealistic football dreams” and creating “unwanted dependencies” between coaches and young children. These are all arguments that led the Sports Council to conclude that the “trade in football dreams” should be “stopped”.

This is the first time an independent advisory body has made recommendations on how to approach commercial football schools in amateur football. The advice is addressed to the municipality of Amsterdam. But the Sports Council, which has spoken with many of the people involved in the past two years, has emphatically emphasized that these are national problems. Chairman Ajith Tillman of the Amsterdam Sports Council says they would like to see their analyzes and recommendations stimulate a national debate. “This may seem a bit unassuming. But we are seeing that commercial football schools are rapidly eroding the federation’s structure and this is not just a phenomenon in Amsterdam, let alone something the municipality can solve on its own.”

Read also: How are commercial football schools doing They earn from the dreams of children and their parents

The advice comes on the heels of a previous study commissioned by the Sports Board, the KNVB and the Amsterdam municipality. In that study, since the beginning of March, researchers concluded that several commercial football schools have emerged in recent years. They provide specialized training to children at a relatively high rate, who will become better footballers as a result. Many football schools have close contacts with the professional clubs, who are revealing a lot in the schools. The course costs an average of 13 euros, compared to less than 2 euros at a classic football club. In Amsterdam alone – the only municipality in which it is registered – there are already about eighty commercial football schools.

From a series of articles in the language Norwegian Refugee Council He later showed how football dreams affected the lives of young children. That’s how 14-year-old Marineau Dreshor told his story. He trains at two commercial football schools and has already been invited to train at AZ, Ajax, FC Volendam and PSV. He continued to lose weight, with the accompanying disappointment. However, he still hopes for a professional career. “And then I think: I’m going to work even harder,” said Marinho Drescher.

Researchers find that many professional clubs “scour” amateur stadiums every weekend in search of talent aged six, seven or eight.

Six clubs from the Eredivisie admitted in the article series that they mostly send scouts to football schools. The level is high and they are simply afraid to miss out on that one talent, even if it sometimes leads to deep disappointment in young children who are repeatedly rejected. Jörg van der Bregen, KNVB’s head of football development, spoke of the “illusion of manufacturability” that is being maintained in part by commercial football schools. The association prefers professional clubs to scout in traditional amateur associations, where the social safety net is stronger and the focus on success is less.

The Amsterdam Sports Council is concerned not only with the “excessive focus on performance in youth football”, as well as about agents and real estate agencies protesting against football schools and “undermining” traditional federations, but also fears excesses due to a lack of oversight. . “With no impediment to establishing a football school, and no form of supervision or oversight, children can end up in very vulnerable situations,” the Sports Council wrote. He mentions the example of Gwendel van R. , the owner of a football school in Amsterdam, who was recently sentenced to several years in prison for, among other things, the exploitation of underage football talents.

Stop choosing young people

When it comes to solutions, the Sports Council likes to see municipalities and KNVB think big. Not only should football schools be “critically examined”, but the entire existing football infrastructure should also be “examined”. This must be done across three lines: banning the trade in football dreams, promoting the bidding of federations and regulating football schools.

Read also: This amateur club in Krimpenerwaard has set up its own football school, Exactly as KNVB wants it

Primarily, professional clubs will be considered. The Sports Council states that they must “cut” their ties with commercial football schools, because it is entirely possible to discover the “unique” and “precise” network of more than 3,000 amateur clubs in the Netherlands. Also, professional clubs should “stop choosing children at a very young age”. The Sports Council cites scientific research showing that scouting at an early age is of little use, because children’s soccer and physical qualities are still developing very aggressively.

However, the Sports Council sees many professional clubs still “cleaning” amateur stadiums every weekend for six, seven or eight-year-old talent. “This is causing a lot of disruption among children, parents, teams and associations,” the report says. It also leads to mimicry of behaviour, because “famous football agents, football schools and amateur clubs do the same thing every weekend.”

The tip: Instead, invest in football engagement broadly, which increases the talent pool, and choose later. To encourage this, KNVB must not pay an amateur club training fee to players who sign a contract with a professional club. The money should be divided among all the clubs, with the largest amounts being the associations with the largest number of young players. “It seems very magical that the amateur club that Frenkie de Jong started in is making money from his success, but you have to prevent this from becoming an end in itself,” says Tillmann, president of Sportrad. At the same time, municipalities can help their associations become stronger, for example by creating an “urban coaches pool” that can raise the level of coaches.

The Sports Council does not see the complete elimination of commercial football schools as a realistic goal. The researchers wrote that regulation is possible. This can be done, for example, by applying for registration with the Chamber of Commerce, maximizing training rates and examining social safety requirements. The Sports Council is clear about football schools working with a football intermediary: they are no longer allowed to use municipal facilities, such as training grounds.

They are comprehensive and above all far-reaching recommendations. Are they also realistic? Tillman: “We are not naive, we know there are many interests at stake. But we also see the disruptive effects on amateur associations. Ultimately, professional clubs also suffer from this.”

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